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Oct 30, 2011 06:16 PM

Five Days in Barcelona

This coming February, I'll be in Barcelona for five days with nothing to do but eat, drink and enjoy the sights to celebrate a milestone birthday with my very food-and-wine-friendly family (not feeling sorry for myself, believe me!). So, the question is this -- WHERE DO WE EAT? Fine dining, tapas, local... in the city or within 50-100 km? There are five of us, and we're up for just about anything... Chowhounders, please... I'm in need of advice. Also, if anyone knows of a kitchen I can observe in or a great one day cooking class?


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  1. And... I know that questions like this have been answered regularly on this board. But I ALSO know that things change and evolve. I don't want to visit the places that used to be great unless they still are... if the old posts really applied, we'd be killing ourselves to get in to El Buli, no?

    5 Replies
    1. re: longtablewine

      Things don't change that much. There are many, many threads from the last 12 months that have pertinent information. Many of them are even on the front page of this board. When you want a board as small and with as few regulars as this one to help you out, a little effort goes a long way.

      1. re: longtablewine

        I echo the above poster's sentiments. Barcelona dominates this board and there are many recent posts on dining in Barcelona, from the 'big three' of Can Fabes, El Celler de Can Roca, Sant Pau, to fine dining, tapas, local, in the city, etc. There is enough recommendations for at least a month worth of eating. Thank goodness that El Bulli has closed; now nobody has to kill themselves anymore just to try to get in.

        1. re: PBSF

          Point taken. I'll re-read the board and see if I can't refine my question if I still feel the need.

          1. re: longtablewine

            Great; couple of other specifics will be helpful such does your family includes children and some idea of a budget. When someone say that their 2 year old is a 'foodie', it has very little meaning. People have different ideas of the meaning of 'budget is not a consideration".

            1. re: PBSF

              Thanks. My kids are coming along (ages 13-18). They're pretty well-traveled and well-fed eating anything from street-food and sashimi to multi-course meals (lucky them!). My youngest might tire after sitting at a table for more than 3 or 4 hours, but if the food is good...

      2. While you're there, you might enjoy the exhibition on Ferran Adria and El Bulli at the Palau Robert.


        Since you are going in Feb 2012, you still have time to make a reservation at Tickets or 41 degrees. Tickets usually needs to be booked 90 days in advance and 41 degrees has just started a new concept of 41 tapas and drinks for 141 euros. It's probably as close to El Bulli as you can get in Barcelona these days. For more info, read the Tickets website.


        I like Gresca, Alkimia and Cinc Sentits for modern Catalan.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Aleta

          I read on the 41 degrees website that the restaurant only accepts parties of a even number, e.g., 2 or 4, so longtablewine's group of 5 would not be able to reserve.

          1. re: Nancy S.

            IMHO, don't waste your time and money at 41*- Not even in the same world as El Bulli, although it wants and tries to be. We were there last week, sent several dishes back, and they could care less! Working on a detailed review, but this is not the place to spend your hard earned $$!

            El Bulli
            Spain , ES

            1. re: sockster

              I'll look forward to your review. I went to Tickets recently and enjoyed it very much.

              1. re: sockster


                I'm looking forward to a detailed review from you too.

                Of course, 41 degrees or Tickets are not in the same world as El Bulli. They're not in the same price range either. The concept is Everyman's El Bulli.

                I never had the pleasure of dining at El Bulli but I did have a fantastic meal at La Alqueria in Seville. Nevertheless, it was a pain to get there! The r/t taxi cost me more than the price of 1 person's meal. With 41 and Tickets, it's conveniently located and therefore, more people can try it.

                1. re: sockster

                  This is interesting. I'd love to know some details -- I don't think they claim to be the same as El Bulli... as Aleta said, far more on the tapas end of the spectrum both in preparation and in price.

                  El Bulli
                  Spain , ES

                2. re: Nancy S.

                  We may wind up reserving for an extra and seeing if we don't have a friend to join us there.

                  1. re: longtablewine


                    If you are looking for an El Bulli level experience (although definitively not El Bulli), you should consider the train to Girona for lunch at El Celler De Can Roca (now the #2 rated Restaurant on San Pellegrino's top 50 World restau list). I'm not sure I'd bring along children, and if you do you'll need a Brinks truck to carry your wallet, but it is a fabulous experience.

                    For a much more reasonably priced, but still tremendously flavourful and imaginative meal, I'd recommend Robert Gelonch. We ate there one night in BCN and had a great meal. It appears to be more of a neighbourhood restaurant than a big destination, but it has been getting a lot of buzz among gastro tourists. We went there based upon great reviews posted on the egullet web site, and were definitely not disappointed. Indeed, it eclipsed our meal at Comerc 24, at half the price or less.

                    We had a 10 course meal (1)strawberry gazpacho, 2) Sous vide and Grilled iberian pancetta, roasted scallop, peanut taboule, crunchy prawn and coriander cream 3) Wagyu beef carpaccio, honey bread crumbs, grilled arugula under a bell filled with beech wood smoke, 4) Cuttlefish in a deconstructed pesto (Parmiggiano whey, basil oil and garlic crisps) 5) Baby squid with quail egg, asparagus, scallions, anemones, black garlic cream and chorizo breadcrumbs, 6)Seared cod with morels, spinach and white truffle sauce, 7) beef stew with beet root, sun chokes and salsify with a watercress cream, 8) thin slices of toro on pizza dough cracker with oven dried cherry tomato, slivered green olive and olive oil foam 9) first desert was listed on the menu as sobrasada air cake, ensaimada ice cream, Mahón cheese cream and Soller tangerine coulis, which the waiter descried as a paprika sausage sponge cake, with a pastry flavoured ice cream, cured cheese foam and tangerine coulis - I know, it sounds bizarre, but was really great and apparently was playing with classic flavours from Majorca, 10) Green tea mache cake with white chocolate ganache, dark chocolate truffle and a toasted pistachio sweet cream.

                    I also think it would be a great place for the kids. That 10 course meal moved along very quickly, so they would not get bored. Each dish was beautiful, imaginative and flavourful, but approachable at the same time. One of the waiters spoke excellent English, and both struck the requisite balance of casually friendly, but exceptionally knowledgeable about the techniques used in the kitchen. Chef came out and spoke to us after our meal, and was very humble and easy to talk too.

                    And on top of that, it won't break the bank (relative to high end restaurant pricing anyways). The above noted meal (ex the Toro which we ordered extra), was the 52 Euro set menu. Wines were very reasonably priced, and the waiter actually talked me down (price point wise) to a great bottle of red.

                    El Bulli
                    Spain , ES

                    1. re: WillinTO

                      WillinTO -- that sounds like a perfect find for us... it's not even just the price point, but I've always loved places that are great but still finding themselves. And I don't know that we're looking for an "El Bulli experience" exactly, what we're looking for is a chance at great dining experiences of all kinds... I'm a strong believer in the idea that "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" -- I don't need beautiful local fish, crusted in Captain Crunch cereal -- I've been served it, along with beef in a Coca-Cola sauce. But I do like food that makes me say -- "a-ha!, so that's what that's supposed to taste like" or, "wow, that's inspired" or surprising as long as it's well-prepared. To me, great eating experiences are those that come from chefs who think about their food and care about their customers. There are all different kinds of thinking and caring, to be sure. From your description and what I'm seeing from others on the web, Robert Gelonch sounds amazing.

                      1. re: longtablewine

                        We were at Gelonch in September. Enthusiastic waitstaff but spread too thin. We waited a long time for drink refills and a requested glass of red wine did not appear until well into the main course. We felt the menu was specifically trying to test us in terms of texture. Most things worked, but I am still haunted by a sous vide cod that ended up with the texture of ghastly rubber band/chewing gum. Careful making reservations via email, better to call, as I think they did not have us on the books. That being said, I can see how some menus would work quite well and it is indeed hard to beat the price point.

                        1. re: millerla

                          Interesting to hear your comments on the cod dish. There was a sous vide cod dish on our menu as well. It was served on a bed of morels, and spinach in a truffled veal stock. Looking back at my notes, it seems they have solved the texture issue - our cod was very moist., with a crisp crust. But it was the only one dish of 10 or more that was a "miss" for us, none the less. The waiter told us it was the most polarizing dish on the menu, because the chef was "working for very bold flavours". The flavours were indeed bold, but a bit disjointed for our tastes. If longtablewine goes, it will be good to get his take. By no means should one "miss" be taken as a negative in terms of the overall meal. We had at least one "miss" at Can Roca, Mugaritz and Etxebarri as well, jsut to calibrate what a "miss' is for us.

                          Service our evening was fantastic - but it was as slow night, so I can see how a big turn out could cause challenges.